A Delaware Psychologist Shares 4 Ways to Show Your Partner Gratitude

December 2, 2015


A couple gently embrace as the sun sets

One of the key elements of every healthy relationship is appreciation. Especially in a long-term relationship, it is all too easy to take our partners for granted, forgetting the tremendous positive impact they have on our lives.

Of course, we all feel appreciation for our romantic partners. But can your partner feel that appreciation? All too often, the answer is no.

Luckily, you can change this. Even simply saying, “I appreciate you” or “Thank you, that means a lot to me” can do a world of good for your romantic relationship. Often, though, the best way to convey sincere gratitude is through your actions.

With that in mind, here are four unique ways you can let your partner know you appreciate them.

  1. Tell Your Family and Friends

Speak highly of your partner to family and friends, and let them know how happy you are to be with him or her. You will be surprised how quickly your words of appreciation find their way back to your partner.

Though direct appreciation is always welcome, it’s wonderful to hear that someone is speaking well of us when we aren’t around.

  1. Spend Time Reminiscing Together

Take your partner on a date to a restaurant or coffee shop. While you’re there, surprise them with photographs of your best memories together. If you don’t have any pictures, take them to a special place in your shared history—like the restaurant where you had your first date, or the park where you first kissed.

The important thing is to get the nostalgia ball rolling. As you reminisce together, use the opportunity to express any appreciative thoughts you might have missed the first time around. You might say something like, “I never told you, but I felt so happy to be with you at that moment.”

  1. Ease their Stressful Schedule

When your partner is overwhelmed with work or other obligations, you can show your appreciation by running some errands for them or doing chores your partner normally takes care of. When we’re stressed, a moment to relax and unwind can be the best gift of all.

  1. Cross Something off Your “Relationship Bucket List”

Most couples have a few plans that they always talk about, but never follow through on—a sort of “relationship bucket list.” Maybe there’s a restaurant you always talk about trying, or a day trip that never ends up happening.

Surprise your partner by planning an item on this list. This lets them know that you value shared experiences with them. It also lets your partner know want your relationship to continue to grow in new, exciting ways.

Even the happiest, most appreciative relationships have room to grow. A Delaware psychologist can help. Deepen the connection between you and your partner by attending one of my workshops, seminars, or therapy sessions.

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Delaware Relationship Counselor Shares 3 Common Relationship Scares

October 20, 2015

Relationship Scares - Couple Scared - Delaware Relationship CounselorThe air is growing crisper, the jack-o-lanterns are popping up on front stoops, and candy corn is on sale—Halloween is upon us! But while letting yourself get scared by ghosts, goblins, and ghouls can be fun and relatively harmless, many single individuals and newly paired couples fear something far more important: love.

That’s right. We may not always realize it, but many of us are afflicted by fears of falling in love or being in a relationship. These insecurities lead us to put up a shield that can keep other people out and prevent us from being able to form lasting, loving, and genuine connections.

These defenses may take different shapes or appear in different situations, but they are often driven by the same common relationship “scares.”

We are scared of being vulnerable. When we open up our heart and allow ourselves to be deeply affected by another person, we make ourselves incredibly vulnerable. When you let yourself love someone, become excited, and grow hopeful, you expose yourself to the possibility of disappointment and rejection—and that’s scary.

We are scared of being hurt again. We all carry scars from previous relationships, dating all the way back to childhood. We may flinch at the possibility of being hurt in a similar way, and shy away from strong emotions because they remind us of negative relationships from our past. When you experience new love, it can remind you of the pain you associate with old loves lost.

We are scared of hurting the other person. In some situations, individuals feel reluctant to become too deeply involved in a relationship out of fear of hurting the other person. If we doubt our own ability to love, or worry that the other person feels too strongly already, we may hesitate to allow a relationship to blossom out of fear that we will end up rejecting or disappointing them. Worrying about how we feel at this moment can stop us from allowing ourselves to see how our feelings will evolve and grow over time, and keep us from even starting what could end up being a beautiful relationship.

Loving truly and deeply takes a great deal of courage, and relationships all come with their share of hurdles. Only after accepting these challenges, opening yourself up to the possibility of disappointment, and making the decision to face your fears can you give yourself an opportunity to find love.

For practical tools to navigate the many challenges associated with love and relationships, you may want to consider relationship counseling. A Delaware relationship counselor may be able to help you identify your own relationship “scares” and get to the root of the issues so you can approach future relationships with confidence and renewed passion.

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Delaware Therapist: Reconnect with a Workaholic Spouse or Partner

October 1, 2015
Delaware Therapist - Workaholic Spouse

If you think the standard 40-hour work week is plenty, you may have trouble connecting with a partner for whom work is the “primary focus” of their life. But such troubles are not deal-breakers, and a couple that values other qualities beyond career goals can successfully compromise their differences in work-life scheduling.

To you, it may seem like your partner values their career over your relationship. This is not uncommon—many people cite conflicts over work schedule as the reason for ending a relationship. In fact, some data suggests that workaholics have twice the divorce rate compared to the rest of the population.

Here are some tips from a Delaware therapist to help your relationship survive if your partner is a workaholic:

Try to understand their side. It’s important to try to understand the why behind your partner’s attitude towards work. Sit down and have an open conversation about what your partner gets from their career.

In some cases, it may be a temporary situation—your partner may need to put in some extra hours in a new career path, or to achieve a specific career goal. They may feel it’s necessary to support their family, or to earn a better future for the both of you.

Other times, “workaholism” is a symptom of a deeper issue. Perhaps your partner is working excessively to combat depression or feelings of inadequacy. If you suspect this is the case, it’s important to try to get your partner to open up to the possibility of getting help. Unfortunately, aggressive probing of personal issues will likely cause your partner to withdraw, so you need to know how to do it.

In most cases, understand the why will prevent you from a good amount of resentment towards your partner. Avoid an accusatory approach—instead let your partner know you are just trying to understand them better.

Work towards a “couples’ answer”.  At the heart of all strong relationships is the ability to hear two (often different) points of view and create a “couples’ answer” that both partners can support. For example, if your partner is willing to set aside time for just the two of you, you might agree to let them work late hours on other days without guilt-tripping or nagging them.

Set aside time for the two of you. Many workaholics run on extremely tight schedules, and often let work hours bleed into their free time. This leaves little room for the “down time” couples need to strengthen their relationship.

Talk to your partner about designating a time that is just for the two of you, like a date night or even a quick lunch. It doesn’t have to be a huge block of time, but it is important that the time is dedicated to your relationship. This means no email checking!

Focus on yourself. Part of maintaining a strong couple relationship involves a frank look at ways you and your partner can adapt to each other’s lifestyle. You may find a considerable amount of strain lifted from your relationship if you find ways to occupy your time when your partner is unavailable, like making new friends or developing a new hobby.

Finding value outside your relationship is a way of growing and maintaining your separate self.

Schedule a counseling session. Don’t be afraid of therapy. It’s not just for couples on the rocks (although it’s certainly helpful in those situations). A Delaware therapist can serve as a coach/guide while you work out answers that allow your relationship to continue to grow in a positive way.

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Delaware Relationship Therapist: Why Touch Matters in a Relationship

September 2, 2015

Delaware Relationship Therapist on Why Touch MattersHolding hands. Tousling hair. Hugging.

What may seem like insignificant gestures of fondness and affection can play a major role in determining the health and longevity of your relationship.

Touch is one of the most important ways to nurture a relationship as an intrinsic part of the human bonding experience. Without regular touch and affection, human beings can fall victim to loneliness, tension, anxiety, and even illnesses.

Alternatively, touching your partner regularly has a variety of powerful benefits, including:

Developing intimacy. In the initial stages of a relationship, humans use touch to express interest and get to know one another, often experimenting to see how much of their touch will be welcomed and returned. As couples grow increasingly comfortable and develop intimacy between each other, they begin to touch each other more.

Keeping intimacy alive. For more established partners, continued touch can strengthen the relationship bond by promoting trust and mutual feelings of pleasure.

Improving communication. Oftentimes, touch can be more effective at communicating emotions than words alone. A kiss can sometimes say a lot when you cannot find the right words, and a hug can often express love, appreciation, and reassurance more clearly and succinctly than speech.

Providing comfort. When you or your partner are sad, upset, frustrated, or stressed, touch can be wonderfully comforting and therapeutic. Gestures such as hugs and hand squeezes trigger receptors in the body to ease stress and enhance relaxation.

How to Increase Touch in Your Relationship

Want to harness the power of touch to boost intimacy, improve communication, and promote trust? Happily, there are many simple ways you can increase touch in your relationship.

  • Make it a habit to share a 20-second kiss and full-body hug every time you meet and part with your partner
  • Try holding each other in bed while lying still
  • When your partner is stressed, treat him or her to a foot rub or neck massage
  • When you are walking or sitting near your partner, hold each other’s hands

For more advice on increasing touch and boosting intimacy in your relationship or marriage, consider talking to a Delaware relationship therapist. Your therapist can provide you with valuable techniques for incorporating touch into your daily lives, as well as teaching you other tools for enhancing intimacy and relationship satisfaction.

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6 Ideas for Summer Dates from a Delaware Relationship Counselor: Get Active with Your Partner

August 2, 2015
Summer Date Ideas from Delaware Relationship Counselor - Kayaking

Want to improve your mood, health, and relationship all at once? Then make a commitment to regular summer dates that involve physical activity.

Together, you’ll benefit from the release of endorphins, improved mood, and better health. If the activity is outside, even better: time spent outdoors can enhance your mood, improve your attention levels, and strengthen your immune system. (Just make sure to use your sunscreen!)

By doing it together, you’re more likely to stick with it. A study from Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London in England found lifestyle changes – exercise or otherwise – are more successful when couples do it together.

“Perhaps, as they say, 'a problem shared is a problem halved,’" said study co-author Jane Wardle.

So what do you have to lose? Get out and active with your partner today with these 6 summer date ideas from a Delaware Relationship Counselor.

  1. Take a bike ride. Don’t already own bikes? Rent some instead! If you find you enjoy it, you can always invest in a bike later. Head to a nearby park together with frequent stops to explore, or use it as your mode of transportation for a lunch date at a restaurant. (Another idea: get a tandem bike for added couples’ fun!)
  2. Go on a scenic hike. The slow pace makes it easy to enjoy the exercise while still holding a conversation. Make a commitment to explore a new hiking trail in your area each week. Bring along a healthy picnic lunch to enjoy when you stop for a particularly beautiful vista.
  3. Try partner kayaking. If you're looking for an upper-body workout, this is a great activity, but it isn't an easy one. It will, however, encourage you to get "in sync" literally! You'll have to work together to coordinate your strokes if you want to get anywhere. The accomplishment can help you feel more like a team.
  4. Explore a farmer’s market. It’s the least intense “workout” on our list, but the right farmer’s market can involve fair amounts of walking, get you outdoors, and encourage healthier eating habits. Then bring those fresh meats and veggies home and grill out for dinner together for more time enjoying the summer heat together.
  5. Play a game of golf. Enjoy the challenge of the game together while also relishing in the walks between holes. If you have a competitive nature, consider not keeping score to keep the focus on just spending time together and living in the moment. Or for a less expensive (and maybe less intimidating) option, go miniature golfing instead.
  6. Start a geocaching adventure. This outdoor activity involves looking for “hidden treasure” using GPS, your mobile device, or other navigation to find containers throughout your community. Working as a team to make a “discovery” will bring a sense of surprise and fun to your relationship. You can learn more about this idea on geocaching.com.

Of course, these are just a few ideas! Put your heads together and see what other fun outdoor activities you can come up with. If you're having trouble working together, contact a Delaware Relationship Counselor for help.

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Delaware Relationship Therapist: Forgiveness in Relationships

June 28, 2015

Delaware Relationship Therapist: Forgiveness in RelationshipsWhen we form a loving relationship with someone, we open our hearts and make ourselves vulnerable. We give our partner the power to make us feel on top of the world, but also to hurt us where we are most sensitive. Your partner will inevitably hurt you during the course of your relationship, either intentionally or otherwise. It could be a careless comment about your weight or profession, or it could be a more serious offense, like committing infidelity.

We can’t control our partner’s words or actions, but we can control how we respond to their behavior. So when your partner says or does something that hurts you, how will you respond?

For many of us, the natural choice is to retaliate, exact revenge, or hold a grudge. But this kind of negative response can be harmful to both your personal well-being and the health of your relationship. Harboring negative feelings towards your partner can cause anxiety, raise your blood pressure, and even decrease your life expectancy. In the end, holding a grudge or plotting revenge against your partner hurts you a lot more than it hurts them.

Alternatively, if you respond with forgiveness and let go of bitterness and animosity, you may not only feel happier and healthier yourself, but improve your relationship. When you forgive your partner for a wrong, you allow your relationship to heal. You are able to take on a new perspective, moving beyond your feelings of the moment and looking towards the future.

Tips on Relationship Forgiveness

To help couples partner through the process, I’ve listed some tips on relationship forgiveness below.

Consider the value of forgiveness. Think about how focusing on the harm causes unnecessary suffering, and all the benefits forgiveness may bring. For instance, you won’t feel anxious or unhappy, and you won’t be constantly obsessing over the incident.

Make a decision to forgive. When you’re ready, make an active decision to forgive your partner. Commit to letting go of your negative feelings and moving past the incident that has caused you so much pain.

Empathize. Reflect on things you may have done wrong, and try to understand why your partner may have acted the way they did. There may be outside events or pressures that contributed to the offense. Rather than excusing the action, this new way of thinking may help you understand your partner better and see them as a human.

Healing. During the process of forgiveness, you may feel a sense of emotional release and new meaning in our relationship. After forgiving your partner and moving on, you may feel happier and stronger in your relationship than ever before.

If you are trying to heal from an emotional injury in your relationship, don’t hesitate to give the Delaware Relationship Therapist a call. I can help to guide you and your partner through the forgiveness process and provide you with support through discussion of sensitive concerns.

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Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803